It’s 2019, audio is entering the third dimension and sports are now of the electronic variety. Just like with conventional ball-and-mitt competitions, esports require specific equipment. The Plantronics Rig 500 Pro esports gaming headset seeks to satisfy gamers of all consoles and offers complimentary Dolby Atmos support. While it’s a cool headset, some may be questioning the $150 price; let’s find out if it’s worth it for your needs.
Who is the Plantronics Rig 500 Pro for?
As the name denotes, this headset is targeted toward esports athletes. From the boom microphone, to the array of attachments, and moisture-wicking leatherette ear pads, everything about the Rig 500 screams gaming. That said, the boom mic is detachable meaning that these can certainly be used as everyday headphones, but you can get a comparable pair of sub-$100 cans without all the bells and whistles.
Gamers are afforded a removable headband cushion, two pairs of ear pads, a PC inline volume cable, a removable boom mic, an audio dial controller cable, complimentary access to Dolby Atmos for Headphones, and the headset itself.
How is it built?
For how intense and durable the headset appears, it’s rather lightweight at 323 grams. The metal exoskeleton is eye-catching and serves a purpose: it dampens vibrations, resulting in an unimpeded sound. Rather than sliding the ear cups up or down buttressing rails, they detach from the headband completely and can be reattached easily via the three-notch system.
In fact, nearly every part of the Plantronics Rig 500 Pro is detachable, including the fabric headband cushion which is suspended between either end of the frame. While its perforated design promotes airflow, you’re bound to sweat in the headset at some point. In which case, washing it is as easy as removing the cushion from the metal support.
Another modular part of the gaming headphones is the omnidirectional boom mic. The arm is allowed 90 degrees of rotation and can be bent for a more customized speaking distance. When the arm is flipped up, the mic is muted and when it’s flipped down it’s active. As far as vocal clarity goes, Plantronics does a great job ensuring the attenuation of background noise. One recurring issue, however, is that if you raise your voice above an acceptable speaking level, it tends to clip easily.
The intelligently designed boom arm automatically mutes itself when flipped up, but has a tendency to clip louder-than-average voices.
The PC cable includes an inline volume slider, which is easy to operate on the fly and always works on mobile devices. Alternatively, if console of choice is an Xbox or PS4, the controller cable integrates an audio dial for quick volume adjustments. There’s an adapter for each respective gaming system.
Gaming with Dolby Atmos
Gaming with the headset is enjoyable mainly due to the lightweight build and simple controls. I never felt inundated with headphone features while playing Fallout. Oddly enough, Dolby Atmos for Headphones, a $15 value, doesn’t improve the gameplay experience as much as I anticipated. However, the headphones do a fine enough job rendering a realistic audio soundscape that running around the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout felt perceptibly more natural than using the SoundPeats Engine earbuds.
As far as speaking is concerned, I was told that my voice was rather loud even though I was using a normal speaking voice—66dBA—which, I measured with a sound level meter. To mitigate the loudness, I moved the microphone as far from my mouth as possible while still keeping it parallel to my mouth.
Again, we’re afforded a few options for connecting the headphones to a source. The PC cable terminates at a 3.5mm plug on either end, as does the controller cable. In order to get a snug fit with the latter, use the small donut-like adapter and rotate it up for PS4 and down for Xbox.
How does it sound?
Each ear cup houses a 50mm dynamic driver, which aides in the reproduction of bass frequencies, which are plenty apparent through the Plantronics Rig 500 Pro. Taking that into account, there’s no shortage of obvious treble emphasis either, which can be accredited to the 10kHz spike.
While the exaggerated treble may be grating for general listening, it serves a purpose for gamers and lets them hear otherwise inaudible sounds.
For a pair of gaming headphones, these don’t do a great job at passively isolating the listener from her surroundings. Since external noise can easily permeate the headphone barrier, this results in auditory masking, which degrades overall clarity and sound quality. While this is a nuisance for general music enjoyment, it can be detrimental to gamers who need to accurately perceive their virtual surroundings without external distraction.
Breaking it down: Lows, mids, and highs
Mistky’s song Nobody, opens with a cymbal-lead beat, which sounds grating because of the treble emphasis. That’s why it’s important to understand the Rig 500 Pro as a gaming headset first and a general pair of headphones second. The feigned clarity provided by the high-frequency exaggeration is helpful in gaming for catching otherwise unnoticed noises. However, for music listening can be fatiguing.
Vocal reproduction, however, is excellent as the headphones nail Mitsky’s voice and the reverb added onto it. The midrange detail is best heard during the chorus as Mitsky sings “Nobody, nobody, nobody,” at 1:10. Bass is slightly emphasized but doesn’t mask midrange frequencies, which again makes sense for gaming because you don’t want anything to interrupt other players’ voices as communication is key to strategic success.
Should you buy the Plantronics Rig 500 Pro?
If you don’t mind the high price tag, yes. There gaming headphones with similar feature sets for significantly less, but if you enjoy the design and don’t mind paying a bit extra for a breathable, lightweight headset, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll be disappointed. The Plantronics Rig 500 Pro Esports Edition has a brilliant module construction, providing ample versatility to any gamer.
Again, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, Beyerdynamic and Aukey make fine gaming headsets. Additionally, if your current pair of headphones is fine for gaming but you need a mic, well, we’ve got you covered.
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